A golf friend was in town and we kicked off a road trip to play golf in three states in two days! One of those states was Delaware where he had never golfed before. All my research shows that the best golf in Delaware is out towards the beaches, but we couldn’t make the logistics of that work easily. Especially since we were trying to catch a baseball game Saturday in Baltimore!
We secured a 6:50am tee time at Odessa National ($55 riding) which is about a half hour south of Newark, where we stayed on Friday night. I had looked at the course on the satellite prior to our round and didn’t expect it to be a destination course. That’s good because the property on which the course is built isn’t any special. Odessa National is a newer course that was built in 2008. It works its way through a community and homes are visible on most holes. It seems like the builder tried to give as many homes as possible a golf course view. From my perspective as a golfer the course would have been a whole lot better if more natural vegetation was left to keep some separation between the homes and holes. The homes didn’t come into play, but they were an eyesore. Unfortunately, some power lines run through the course too. The few wooded holes offer a nice setting though!
That is about all the bad that I have to say about the design! Gil Hanse designed the course and I think he did a brilliant job. If you are familiar with golf course architecture, you’ll probably be aware that Hanse was selected to design the Olympic course for when golf returns to the Olympics next year! I haven’t played many of his other courses, but Rustic Canyon in California stood out as one that I enjoyed.
We played the black tees which play 73.4/133/6961. You’ll notice that the rating and slope aren’t terribly high and I attribute that to all the trees that were cleared out when building the community. There are plenty of open holes where a wayward shot can be found! I wouldn’t say the fairways are large, but it is a playable course. There is a bit of fescue which adds to the open look.
I’ll admit that there are a couple quirky doglegs and fairways that run out. In fact, they had me scratching my head and slowed me down. But, the highlight of the design for me was how Hanse requires a golfer to pick a line and hit it! Multiple lines are available on many shots and someone can be as aggressive or as conservative as they’d like. The course is laid out over some pretty flat terrain, but the natural elevation changes are used well to add interest with blind shots. Normally I don’t like blind shots, but it seems like a lot of them here could be avoided just by using a different club or taking a different line. The other thing I liked about the course is that the yardages varied. There were some fair, longer holes and trickier, shorter ones.
The course was good shape, but it would have been better had we played in the afternoon. The tees and fairways were full and most greens were smooth. A couple greens in shaded areas were sanded, but it didn’t affect the roll. My gripe about the conditions is that the course was heavily watered when we got started and it dried out as our round went along. The greens got faster as the morning went along and some drives started to run out. Had we played in the afternoon I think the conditions would have been more consistent. I wasn’t disappointed with the conditions considering the green fee.
I wouldn’t suggest that anyone go out of their way to play Odessa National, but it turned out to be what we were looking for! It was a good value and it was in Delaware. An added bonus is that it was fair to play and even though I didn’t play well, I always thought I had a chance to turn it around.
#1 (410 yard par 4):
The 1st hole is a bit deceptive. It looks as open as can be and that’s true for a miss to the right. The fairway looks wide, but it starts to narrow around a fairway bunker that is ~225 yards to get to. The drive isn’t the toughest, but I found the approach plenty demanding. The green is slightly elevated and anything to the left could kick out of play. Out of bounds is down the entire left side up to the green.
#2 (632 yard par 5):
The 2nd is the #1 handicap and the starter told us that we’d face a blind tee shot to a fairway that runs out into a hazard. That was a nice “heads-up” because this hole has the potential to ruin the scorecard early in the round. It is the longest hole on the course and one of the longest par 5’s that I’ve played all summer. The fairway runs out around 275 yards with water off to the right and left. From there the hole doglegs almost ninety degrees right over water. The layup will require picking a correct line for the distance because it is a longer carry to get closer to the green. I’d make sure not to miss too far beyond the green because there is some out of bounds. Making a bogey here isn’t terrible.
#3 (453 yard par 4):
The 3rd is a long par 4 that moves left around a fairway bunker. That bunker can be challenged for the shortest shot into the green. I sliced my tee shot which ended up out of bounds in someone’s yard to the right so if you get one going that way, you might want to hit a provisional. The approach is blind and I could only see the top of the flag from the fairway. The green complex is bunkerless and sits in a valley with some slopes on both sides that can feed shots towards it. The green is well designed to receive a long second shot!
#4 (300 yard par 4):
The 4th is a great, short par 4! It can be an easy birdie or a sloppy bogey. No matter what there is plenty of risk/reward. The green sits a bit off to the left (over a bunch of bunkers) and it could be driven, especially with a draw. Even if someone cannot hit it to the front edge, I love that there still could be an advantage to hitting driver. I hit a driver about 240 yards out towards the “V” in the trees. I ended up in the narrowing fairway with a great angle to play into the shallow green. The green is heavily bunkered and falls off over the back. The fairway is wide for a layup, but a precise short iron will be needed for the approach. I wish every course had a par 4 like this one!
#5 (526 yard par 5):
The 5th is a potentially reachable par 5. That telephone pole is a good line and then the hole moves ninety degrees right. I missed it in the right rough near a fairway bunker and that probably didn’t hurt me much. It would have been uphill to the green (over bunkers) from an awkward angle if going for it in two. There isn’t much space around the green either as it falls off on a couple sides and there is trouble to the left. I laid up and couldn’t see the green on my third. It could take a couple times to find a favorite distance and angle for the third. I’d suggest playing cautiously here your first time around.
#6 (142 yard par 3):
The 6th is one of the easiest holes on the course! It is a forced carry to the green so make sure not to miss short. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get a solid strike though because it will probably be with a short iron. The green narrows towards the back making that a tougher pin location.
#7 (430 yard par 4):
The 7th is a long par 4 that doglegs left. A solid tee shot probably is needed to get to the green in two. A right to left tee shot can run out because the right side of the fairway is higher than the left. My friend was on the left side of the fairway and had to avoid the left trees on his approach. The hole doesn’t fit my eye and I ended up laying up short of a hazard that cuts across before the green. There is trouble off to the right of the green, but room to the left from which to play. This is the #3 handicap and another one where I wouldn’t get too aggressive.
#8 (380 yard par 4):
The 8th is a mid-length par 4 that moves right into the woods. There is out of bounds left and a hazard right so finding the fairway is the most important shot. Someone probably has to hit a bit cut or challenge the right tree line if hitting driver because the fairway runs out straight ahead. The fairway narrows so I’d probably suggest hitting something other than driver. It is narrow up near the green too.
#9 (190 yard par 3):
The 9th is a long par 3 with a green that is best designed to receive a draw. The green slides around a bunker to the left and there is some slope off the left edge. However, lost ball trouble to the right makes it tough to commit to a draw. The green is narrow up front and gets wider towards the back. I would have liked for there to be more room to the right (maybe a chipping area).
#10 (375 yard par 4):
The 10th is one of the easier par 4’s on the course. It isn’t too long so driver isn’t necessary, but picking the correct line off the tee is important. There are two fairway bunkers and the best shot shape is probably a draw in hopes of ending up on the left side of the fairway. That will leave a clearer view of the green. The green has a small false front which made my chip trickier than normal.
#11 (568 yard par 5):
The 11th is a long par 5 where the wind direction could significantly affect the score. It was downwind when we were playing and I hit driver and a hybrid short of the green in two. That made it a good chance for birdie. The fairway is semi-blind and runs out around 280 yards. From there the hole moves left, but it will most likely be a blind shot and it is a forced carry to the other section of fairway. There is a cross bunker and playing out to the right leaves the best angle into the deep green. The green is elevated on a plateau which can stress the short game.
#12 (367 yard par 4):
The 12th is a short par 4 that doglegs left. There are a couple fairway bunkers left which should be avoided and if someone can hug the edge then that will leave the shortest shot into the green. There is a telephone pole off in the distance which is a good spot to aim a draw. I was surprised by how much fairway is out there, but driver isn’t needed. The green is shallow but wide. In fact, if the tee shot isn’t far enough then the left side of the green can be hidden from view. The green falls off over the back so I’d make sure not to miss long.
#13 (377 yard par 4):
The 13th moves right and requires another decision off the tee. The conservative play is a layup club out to the left keeping the tee shot short of the dogleg. The aggressive play is trying to carry all the fairway bunkers over to the right (that fairway over them is wide). If that can be done then the ball could get a nice bounce, maybe leaving just a short pitch into the green. The green slopes from back to front and there is a ridge in the middle. I would probably need a perfect yardage to attack the narrower, back level.
#14 (470 yard par 4):
The 14th is the #2 handicap and it is a monster par 4! It plays uphill and it was into the wind when we played. Even though the yardage played like a par 5 I think it is well designed. There is plenty of space off the tee and the fairway is wide short of the green. Plus, there is some slope from left to right so a long club can run onto the green. This is a long par 4 where someone can swing away and maybe their short game can squeak out a par.
#15 (226 yard par 3):
The 15th is the longest par 3 on the course and a pretty difficult hole. From the back tees it is a long forced carry to the green. The other tees (off to the left) have a more forgiving angle which is nice. Missing a bit left and right is okay because there is some helpful slope left of the green and more rough right than I expected.
#16 (480 yard par 5):
The 16th is another genius hole! It is a short par 5 with a green that sits off to the right. The fairway is stepped and depending how far someone hits it, the second shot could be blind. I faced a blind layup and almost hit it too far into a group of bunkers. I wish I would have hit my layup more to the right. If someone can carry all those traps on the second shot then it could leave a great angle and a short pitch. The green is shallow so distance control is important.
#17 (167 yard par 3):
The 17th is a mid-length par 3 that plays a bit uphill. The circle shaped green has a couple bunkers around it. There are some spots around it to miss and still make a par.
#18 (468 yard par 4):
The 18th closes with another long, uphill par 4! The right edge of the fairway and a bunker are hidden from view, at least from the back tee box. That bunker is ~230 yards and the fairway starts to narrow after it. There is a hazard right and out of bounds left so there is some pressure to hit a good tee shot. The approach will be semi-blind and into a wide green that slopes from back to front.